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Contemporary Churches Thrive, While Traditional Churches Losing Attendance

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At a time when church attendance is declining, non–denominational churches are seeking to bring people into the fold with a more contemporary, up–beat style that differs from a so–called traditional church.

This isn't your grandfather's church.

And while there's some elements of your traditional religions,: there is one element church parishioners say is missing:

Max Thomas says, "We believe that people are passionate people. You go to a Vikings game, well maybe not this year, you go to a Vikings game and see people are passionate and we believe that people are and should be passionate about God."

And passion comes in many forms at New Creation Church is North Mankato for both young and old.

But what brings these people to leave the church of their fathers for a church of today?

Kevin Young says, "The biggest challenge when it comes to spirituality, religion, if you will, is there's no fulfillment."

Thomas says, "I see this a lot in my demographic here in the church of the young people. You can go downtown, you can go to a number of different places and the world will offer you an experience, a tangible experience with something and that touches people and they're like, hey, I felt something in this place. I don't know if it's good or bad, but I felt something and I'm drawn back to it. Church was always meant to give that to people."

And churches all across the area are looking to bring people into the flock after reports have showed church attendance declining over the last 10 years. A study by the Pew Research Center showed that overall church attendance for those who attend a weekly service has declined by 2 percent since 2003. But the decline is even bigger for 18–25 year–olds.

Thomas says, "Most statistics will say that in my generation only 4 percent of my generation is actively involved in church activity some way or form and that accounts for all denominations. Go back two generations ago it was over 50 percent."

And while this may not look like a conventional church on the outside, and the lights, music, and clapping could seem like a distraction to some, these nondenominational churches, like Life Family and New Creation are bucking the trend.

According to a study from the Hartford Institute for religion research, 12.2 million adhere to a nondenominational church, up from 200,000 in 1990. New Creation boasts a membership of nearly 800 and Life Family at the bottom of Lookout Drive has grown to more than 120 after starting off in a hotel room and trunk of a car 11 years ago.

Pastor Greg Warner says, "We started with a handful and now God has multiplied us: new families, especially a lot of the younger people and children are coming and it's really exciting to us."

And Max Thomas says these contemporary churches have been able to keep their members back because they've changed the dynamics of what people can expect out of a church service.

Thomas says, "It creates and attachment in people. Where it's not just this mental routine of : well, it's Sunday, we go to church. This is kind of what we do. It's hey: something happened to me at this place. I don't really understand it all. I might not get it all, but I know it happened and therefore I want to go there. That's what we're after."

And so far, they're attracting both old and young.

Ronnie Christ says, "I guess I liked what I saw. I like the freedom. I like the freedom to worship God the way I was called to worship. I didn't want to be, it's not do this or do that, it's do what the spirit of God leads you to."

And while they may not look like churches, or sound like churches, they have found a way to bring generations together at a time when attendance is declining and souls are searching for answers.